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Microsoft sides with media groups, together they urge Europe to follow Australia's lead, make Google, Facebook pay for news article links

Already interest from MEPs, one body tells us

Microsoft and four European press industry trade groups on Monday urged the European Union to introduce new laws that would require websites like Google and Facebook to pay publishers for using news content on their platforms.

The group didn't precisely define what this press content is, though we would imagine it includes headlines and summaries or snippets of articles in, say, prominent search results, or social media posts, typically with links to coverage.

Spurred by the Australian government’s momentum with its News Media Bargaining Code, first proposed last year, Microsoft has sided with publishers.

The Australian code requires internet giants and news publishers to negotiate a price for the right to include content and links to news. In response, Google threatened to shut down its search operation for the whole of Down Under. Google has since struck deals to pay for material from numerous Australian publishers, plus entered a pact that covers properties owned by billionaire media super-baron Rupert Murdoch in Australia and elsewhere.

While Facebook also pays publishers in its own News program, it last week banned all sharing of news on its antisocial network Down Under. Within the past hour or so, Australia altered its bargaining code, and Facebook announced it would restore news as a result.

Both Google and Facebook feared Oz's bargaining code would embolden publishers in other nations to demand royalties for using headlines, snippets of text, and article links in search results – and the internet duo were right. Now, European media groups want a slice of the web ads pie, too.

'Pay for press content'

In a joint announcement with Microsoft, the European Media Management Association, European Newspaper Publishers Association, European Publishers Council, and News Media Europe called for “an arbitration mechanism to be implemented in European or national law requiring such gatekeepers to pay for press content.”

"Independent journalism is vital to the social cohesion that is essential for democracy. But the internet and social media have not been kind to the free press with most outlets hit hard," said Jean-Pierre de Kerraoul, president of the newspaper publishers association.


Facebook and Google’s Australian pay-for-news nightmare finds a European admirer


"Any legislative proposal that strengthens democracy and supports a free press should be promoted by the technology industry, which is a product of the very same freedoms and values.”

Google is in the process of forming, or has already formed, individual agreements with large publishers to pay them for news links in various nations, including notably the UK, Australia, Argentina, and France, and typically tucking the secretive deals under its News Showcase umbrella brand.

Microsoft veep Casper Klynge said Redmond has a similar initiative with Microsoft News. “Access to fresh, broad and deep press coverage is critical to the success of our democracies,” he said. "Our commitment to preserving and promoting journalism isn’t new. In October 2020, we launched a new initiative to invest in and support local media and, through Microsoft News, we have been sharing a large portion of revenue with press publishers. This initiative is a logical next step.”

Europe is, meanwhile, working on a Digital Markets Act, which aims to reduce the power of so-called “gatekeeper platforms” that dominate the web. French President Emmanuel Macron also rubber-stamped a copyright-based law in his Euro nation that stated publishers must be repaid if their content is reused online.

Of the proposals to make internet gatekeepers pay for using news media, a spokesperson for the European Publishers Council told The Register "already some MEPs have shown interest in pushing this forward." We note that Alex Agius Saliba, a Maltese MEP, recently spoke about how such a mechanism could work, and showed support for the Digital Markets Act.

Google and Facebook declined to comment. ®

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